I attended Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL for two years before transferring to William Paterson University. At Flagler, they required every student take public speaking in order to graduate. Unfortunately for me, my professor didn’t input our grades in the school’s system and I didn’t know I was failing the class because my outlines weren’t done right. This meant that lucky me had to take public speaking again (and got an A), this time with a professor who actually told us our grades. However, it wasn’t until the end of my second public speaking class that I learned how to be comfortable in front of an audience.
While speaking in front of a group of people can be terrifying, it’s a task that you will most likely have to do at least once in life. Here are some tips to overcome a fear of public speaking.
- PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. You know the old saying “practice makes perfect”? Well practice also makes you more confident. If you walk into a presentation knowing what you’re going to say, you’re less likely to skip over words, stutter or pause.
- Don’t picture everyone in his or her underwear. This trick may work for some people but picturing everyone half naked can be distracting and might do more harm than good. Instead, just see everyone as they are, which is hopefully fully dressed unless you’re speaking at a nude convention.
- Stay calm. Most people get nervous before a speech. It’s natural. However, letting the jitters flood over you isn’t the way to handle it. Do something to calm yourself before your speech such as listening to music, meditating or stretching.
- Keep your pace. Pace is one of the make it or break it components to a speech. Talk too slow and people will fall asleep. Talk to fast and people won’t be able to keep up. When you practice, try to keep a pace that is natural and conversational, as if you were speaking to a friend.
- Don’t read off the slides/notecards/paper. Nothing looks worse during a presentation then someone who has their eyes on their notes the entire time. Practicing your speech will help you get more comfortable and you will be able to look at the audience while you talk rather than your paper.
- Avoid “uhm” and “uh.” The dreaded filler words. If you need to pause during your speech, just pause. Don’t day “uhm” or “uh” to fill the silence. It makes you sound like you don’t know what you are talking about and even worse, like you are unprepared.
- Don’t look at your friends. If your friends are the type of people to make funny faces at you during a presentation, then don’t look at them during your speech. They could make you laugh which will throw your presentation off and no one else would be laughing.
- Use your hands. While giving a speech, people aren’t just listening to you, but watching. Using hand gestures can make the presentation seem more natural. Additionally, keeping your hands busy can help relieve some of the nervous jitters you may be feeling.
- Wing it. In the end, your speech isn’t going to go exactly as you plan. You may skip over a sentence, drop your notecards or stutter once or twice. When it comes down to it, all you can do is wing it. Don’t focus on the negatives and instead just push through and finish the speech strong.
I’m no expert on speaking in public and I still have a lot I can improve on but with each speech I make, I get better. Use these tips the next time you have to prepare for a presentation and see how much you can improve!
*Feature photo originally posted on Instagram by @omar_ajeena